Storm brace for huge representative player drain
Melbourne's premiership defence faces a huge test in the representative season with at least 10 players set to juggle club and State of Origin or Test duties.
In 2008 the Storm had 10 players line up in the Holden State of Origin series, so the club is no stranger to getting through such challenges.
The Storm are set to lose Billy Slater, Cameron Smith, Cameron Munster, Will Chambers, Felise Kaufusi and Tim Glasby to Maroons duty.
In the frame for NSW are Josh Addo-Carr, Curtis Scott and Dale Finucane.
While all these players may not be missing for Origin I, as the series unfolds they could all be used.
The England v New Zealand Test in Denver on June 23 is likely to result in Kenny and Jesse Bromwich and Nelson Asofa-Solomona being required by the Kiwis.
The first challenge will come on June 10 in Melbourne when the Storm host Brisbane four days after the opening Origin clash.
"That is an incredible number of players," Storm general manager of football Frank Ponissi told NRL.com.
"We did have at least that many in Origin in 2008, but if we are getting that many in line for Origin it means that we are playing really well, so that is a good sign.
"To lose that many players in the middle of the year from a club point of view is challenging but we have always been strong advocates here of rep footy. We know how much it means to the players and the experience they get in these games make them better players and we reap the rewards of [that]."
Managing player workloads through the Origin period puts a strain on the squad but can also have benefits down the track.
"Last year was probably the best we've ever handled the Origin period where some players really put up their hand when they got opportunities they wouldn't normally get like Brodie Croft, Brandon Smith and young Jahrome Hughes," Ponissi said.
"Nelson Asofa-Solomona stood up in that Origin period and from a leadership point of view Dale Finucane and Jesse Bromwich were outstanding in that regard."
The Storm will also be without their Origin stars for the round-17 home clash with St George Illawarra on July 5.
The Test in Denver is the weekend before the Storm play the Roosters in Adelaide.
Ready to rock for the Storm in the forwards are giant Fijian prop Tui Kamikamica and former North Queensland front-rower Patrick Kaufusi.
In the backs, the reliable Cheyse Blair and Hughes are back from injury while Ponissi said PNG international Justin Olam was "knocking the door".
The reliable Young Tonumaipea is also on hand to fill an outside back position. Rising star Brandon Smith is set to get more of an opportunity at hooker when Cameron Smith is called up for Queensland.
Addo-Carr's form may be impossible to ignore for NSW while Scott is an outside chance. Finucane is yet to win favour with NSW selectors but "we believe that Dale is made for Origin", said Ponissi.
Ponissi said the Storm applauded the concept of the Test in the Denver, but not the timing.
"It should have been played at the end of the year," he said
Melbourne's New Zealand players will take on Brisbane on June 10, travel to Denver, then return days before the side plays the Roosters in Adelaide on Friday, June 29.
"They are going to the other side of the world in a week and I find it intriguing that clubs are being told their preparation is no different to the blokes playing Origin," Ponissi said.